Monday, August 6, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

An ordinary man! 
An extraordinary story!
I loved it!

Harold Fry, 60 years old and recently retired, has little to do with his days except watch his wife do the housework. One morning he receives a letter from a work colleague he hasn't heard from for twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in a hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Harold writes a reply and sets off to post his letter but when he reaches the mail box decides to walk further on to the Post Office and then a chance encounter changes his mind completely. Harold doesn't post his letter. Harold has become convinced that he must deliver his letter in person, that he must walk the six hundred miles from his home in Devon to Berwick on he keeps on walking.

It is an unlikely journey, the archetypal Fool's journey, which is why it is so magical. Harold reaches out and touches that part of ourselves which has known that moment of wanting to do the same but didn't. 

As he walks he begins to see the world around him with fresh eyes.
" He spent long moments watching the sky, and the way the land changed beneath it. Hilltops became gold against the sunrise, and windows reflecting its light were so orange you could think there was a fire blazing. The evening shadows lay long beneath the trees, like a separate forest that was made of darkness. He walked against an early-morning mist and smiled at the pylons poking their heads through the milk-white smoke."
Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom trigger his memories and force him to confront the losses and disappointments of his life. As the barriers around his heart begin to break down Harold starts to look at people differently ...
"The silver-haired gentleman was in truth nothing like the man Harold had first imagined him to be. He was a chap like himself, with a unique pain; and yet there would be no knowing that if you passed him in the street, or sat opposite him in a cafe and did not share his teacake...........................It must be the same all over England. People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters. And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the things they were carrying inside."
And at home alone Maureen also has time to think. 

It is a beautiful and very moving story that from the first few pages reaches out and grabs the heartstrings. My heart ached for the loneliness of Harold and Maureen and rejoiced in their healing. I cried when it was sad and laughed at the humorous and happy moments. It's a book that cannot fail to make you stop and re-evaluate your life and ask some questions.

A certainty for my Top 10 of 2012.


  1. I listened to it last week (read by Jim Broadbent). I really liked it!

  2. Well, you had me in the first three sentences :-)

    1. Great :-)Hope you'll read and enjoy too.

  3. This sounds wonderful...just the whole idea to keep on walking got me. I' ve felt that way myself when out on a walk and the weather is perfect...I could just go on for miles. :)

    1. It's the idea that someone can ignore all the reasons why you can't keep walking and go ahead and do it. Lovely story!